I clearly remember my first telescope; in fact, I still have it. I was 9 years old, and my parents bought me a 2-inch reflector for Christmas. The tube was cardboard, it held a second-surface secondary mirror, and it had a 0.925″ eyepiece with an all-plastic lens. The mirror cell was plastic and glued in, so there was no way to collimate (optically align) the telescope.
The mount was a ball with a locking clamp on a tripod. The finder scope was a hollow aluminum tube. As you might imagine, views through this telescope were not great. Yet, as a kid who was developing an interest in astronomy, I thought I had gotten the greatest gift ever.
Today’s telescopes for children and adults just getting into the hobby are far superior to my reflector. And based on the predicted popularity of Comet ISON (C/2012 S1), lots of people will be looking up this year. To meet the demand for high-quality, low-cost telescopes, Celestron recently introduced two models for the beginner: the Cometron FirstScope and the Cometron 114AZ. These two products prove that you don’t have to invest a large sum of money to get started in amateur astronomy.